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Metformin and longevity (METAL): A window of opportunity study investigating the biological effects of metformin in localised prostate cancer

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Danielle Crawley, Ashish Chandra, Massimo Loda, Cheryl Gillett, Paul Cathcart, Ben Challacombe, Gary Cook, Declan Cahill, Aida Santa Olalla Revenga, Fidelma Cahill, Gincy George, Sarah Rudman, Mieke Van Hemelrijck

Original languageEnglish
Article number494
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jul 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jul 2017


King's Authors


Background: Metformin is a biguanide oral hypoglycaemic agent commonly used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. In addition to its anti-diabetic effect, metformin has also been associated with a reduced risk of cancer incidence of a number of solid tumours, including prostate cancer (PCa). However, the underlying biological mechanisms for these observations have not been fully characterised in PCa. One hypothesis is that the indirect insulin lowering effect may have an anti-neoplastic action as elevated insulin and insulin like growth factor - 1 (IGF-1) levels play a role in PCa development and progression. In addition, metformin is a potent activator of activated protein kinase (AMPK) which in turn inhibits the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and other signal transduction mechanisms. These direct effects can lead to reduced cell proliferation. Given its wide availability and tolerable side effect profile, metformin represents an attractive potential therapeutic option for men with PCa. Hence, the need for a clinical trial investigating its biological mechanisms in PCa. 

Methods: METAL is a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, window of opportunity study investigating the biological mechanism of metformin in PCa. 100 patients with newly-diagnosed, localised PCa scheduled for radical prostatectomy will be randomised 1:1 to receive metformin (1 g b.d.) or placebo for four weeks (+/- 1 week) prior to prostatectomy. Tissue will be collected from both diagnostic biopsy and prostatectomy specimens. The primary endpoint is the difference in expression levels of markers of the Fatty acid synthase (FASN)/AMPK pathway pre and post treatment between the placebo and metformin arms. Secondary endpoints include the difference in expression levels of indicators of proliferation (ki67 and TUNEL) pre and post treatment between the placebo and metformin arms. METAL is currently open to recruitment at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital and the Royal Marsden Hospital, London. 

Discussion: This randomised placebo-controlled double blinded trial of metformin vs. placebo in men with localised PCa due to undergo radical prostatectomy, aims to elucidate the mechanism of action of metformin in PCa cells, which should then enable further larger stratification trials to take place. 

Trial registration: EudraCT number 2014-005193-11. Registered on September 09, 2015.

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